“One Year into a Pandemic Together”

A Town Hall with Students hosted by the USM Student Council

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Live Webinar

The impact of COVID-19 has been enormous and wide-spread across the nation affecting every aspect of life as we know it including higher education. Students and academic institutions are facing challenges unlike never before as we continue to adapt and respond to this global pandemic. We must continue to come together in our collective response and efforts. The USM Student Council represents over 172,000 students in the University System of Maryland’s 12 institutions and 3 regional higher education centers.

This Town Hall will open dialogue with a diverse panel to hear from guest speakers and students across USM in addressing the impact of COVID on students, challenges and successes over the past year, and the way ahead. Special remarks will be given by Dr. Jay Perman, Chancellor, University System of Maryland.

Questions for the Panelists?! Join Us Tonight at 6pm

How has COVID impacted you as a student this year? Do you have a question you want to submit to us? Submit your questions using the link above.


Bernetta Reese (Moderator)
Vice President of Undergraduate Affairs, USM Student Council

Bernetta Reese is a native and life-long resident of Maryland with more than 20 years of public service across the federal government and alongside the military. She has worked with almost every U.S. Cabinet-level department, including the Departments of Defense, Justice, Agriculture, and Homeland Security, as well as the White House. She has also served as a community volunteer on behalf of public schools and universities, museums, national parks, churches, festivals, youth programs, and non-profits.

Over her decades-long career, Bernetta made a significant impact becoming known as a positive change agent while helping to lead and support several federal initiatives. Bernetta believes that success is attained through hard work, dedication, engagement, and education. She is finishing her degree at University of Maryland Global Campus while continuously pursuing her career. She is committed to strengthening the University System of Maryland, advocating for students, and expanding opportunities for all.

Alejandro Chacon
International Student Athlete, University of Maryland, College Park

Alejandro Chacon is an international athlete and undergraduate student at the University of Maryland, College Park. He was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela. He plays for the men’s soccer team at the University and won the national championship in 2018. He is graduating as an information science major and will begin his masters at Maryland beginning in the Fall. His father also played tennis at UMD in the 80s. His personal goal is to one day create his own information company in the United States.

LaShawna Wright
Chief Justice, Student Government Association, Coppin State University

LaShawna Wright is an undergraduate student at Coppin State University. She was raised in Rock Hill, SC, and has lived in Baltimore since 2007. She is currently the HCVP Coordinator/Contract Administrator for the Housing Authority of Baltimore City. LaShawna is the mother of two boys and the guardian of her youngest sister. LaShawna is graduating as a double Social Science and Nonprofit Leadership major and plans to begin her MSW/JD program in the Fall. Her personal goals are to work in government, creating and reforming laws and policies for the Child Welfare system. LaShawna also wants to start a nonprofit that aids foster children reunify with their families and provide assistance after leaving care.

Dr. Karen Olmstead
Provost and Senior VP for Academic Affairs, Salisbury

Karen Olmstead was appointed Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs at Salisbury University in December 2018. Dr. Olmstead oversees the University’s four endowed schools and is also responsible for academic policy and budgeting, curriculum, faculty development, student advising and support, assessment, instructional technology, accreditation and University outreach.

Dr. Olmstead previously served as Dean of SU’s Henson School of Science & Technology. Before coming to SU in 2008, she held several leadership positions at The University of South Dakota including Associate VPAA & Graduate Dean, Director of University Honors & Undergraduate Academic Programs, and Chair of Biology. Her work as an educator and in science outreach has been recognized by several awards including USD's Professor of the Year and the University of Delaware’s Presidential Citation for Outstanding Achievement.

Dr. Olmstead received her Ph.D. in Entomology from the University of Maryland and her B.S. and M.S. from the University of Delaware. She and her family enjoy living on Maryland’s beautiful Eastern Shore. 

Dr. Bruce Herman
Director, Health & Counseling, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Dr. Herman graduated from Cornell University with a degree in Industrial and Labor Relations. He obtained his Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. He has been working in Higher Education for over 30 years and has worked extensively in the areas of mental health and health promotion. 

He came to UMBC in July 2012. Before UMBC he worked at Towson University Counseling Center from 1999-2012. Prior to that, from 1991-1998 Dr. Herman worked as a Psychologist at Loyola College in Maryland. Dr. Herman has also taught in the Psychology and/or Education Departments at Towson University, Loyola College and University of Illinois. He is interested in campus health promotion and in providing services that reach, serve and support the success and health of UMBC’s diverse population.

Dr. Patty Alvarez
Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs, University of Maryland Baltimore

Patty Alvarez, PhD, serves as the assistant vice president of student affairs and chief student affairs officer at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. She has more than 23 years of professional experience working in student affairs and academic affairs at several universities, including the University of Dayton; Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI); the University of Maryland, College Park; and Cornell University. Her previous professional experiences have involved the Dean of Students Office, multicultural affairs, international programs, student activities, living-learning communities, and pre-college bridge programs. Dr. Alvarez has also taught multiple courses as an adjunct professor at the undergraduate and graduate level.

She earned a PhD in college student personnel from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2011.  Dr. Alvarez has a master’s degree in higher education and student affairs and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with minors in sociology and Spanish; both degrees were earned at Indiana University in Bloomington.


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